SochiReporter Launches with Time Machine, Wiki Guidebook

    by Alexander Zolotarev
    November 20, 2009

    I’m glad to say that SochiReporter, my Knight-funded project, launched on October 27. This was a very important day for me, and for our team. We tested SochiReporter for about two months before the public launch, inviting both web experts and users to comment on various aspects of the site.

    In the days before the launch, I didn’t sleep a wink. But this is natural. I was very excited about the launch, and did my best to convey how cool and innovative SochiReporter is to the journalists and students that gathered on launch day in the hall of one of the best schools in Sochi.

    Generating Content

    We have been working on this project for almost a year, but we started generating content a few months back. At the end of July, we organized a seminar about the web and new media for students in Sochi. We also announced a contest that would give prizes for the best photos, text and video. So between August and October, students were generating content for the site. We provided the students with some nice gadgets to help with their reporting, as well as some basic knowledge about blogging and other skills. This meant we were able to launch with lots of original content.


    Site Design and Structure


    For me, design is really important. As my designer friend who works for a lifestyle magazine told me, “folks are subconsciously attracted by good design.” We had a great time working with four designers from Cetis, which is one of the leading design studios in Russia. I call our design “adrenaline.” It’s really colorful and bright, and each section has a personal touch. Please take a look and let us know what you think. You can also view a video about the creation of the site:

    In terms of the structure of the site, I believe we were innovators. As I understand it, innovation is a process that aims to combine existing tools to create a new product.


    We created a section on the site called Time Machine. It enables a user to go back in time to any day (starting from October 2009) and see which material was uploaded. This is basically a way of archiving and storing information, and it’s very useful when it comes to sites like ours.

    i-31b8e90c346becd8f788828d0baf959e-time machine_il_m.JPG

    Other innovative sections include the Guidebook, which is a wiki-based virtual guidebook of Sochi. (I wrote the first Russian guidebook of Norway when I was 21, so this section is important to me). I believe that the Guidebook creates a sense of community, and it’s a great element for any community-oriented website. In order to create the Guidebook, I made agreements with the publisher of the best travel guidebook for Sochi to provide us with basic travel information. So we’re starting with information provided by professional travel writers. Then, as the city changes, users will be able to edit and add to the Guidebook. We already have some local students writing about Sochi’s museums.



    We launched with a major presentation of SochiReporter at the 2009 Russian Internet Week. This is a big web industry exhibition organized in a huge venue in Moscow. It was great to be a part of this expo, and many people were interested in our project. We had a small but comfy stand with walls that were covered with samples from the site.

    In Sochi, all of the local television channels covered the launch, as did the online media and some of the local papers. I realized how much the publicity helps when, days after the launch, I was recognized by a waiter in a café. He had seen me on television.

    Thanks to our seminars back in July, most of the local journalists had already heard about SochiReporter. This helped create a sense of anticipation for our launch — and helped make it a success so far. The number of registered users is gradually growing and new stories come up on SochiReporter.

    Tagged: marketing sochi sochireporter social media
    • Nick Sanders

      Alexander, congrats on your launch! A great idea and remarkable implementation. I like the way you are building up the brand!

    • I like the idea behind the Time Reporter but from an execution point of view I have to ask WTF?:-) (Though using a Russian site with the information flagged in Cyrillic in fact points out the next great fallacy of the USA centric world view. Writing scripts and languages are the only true barriers / borders to human communication.

      There are lots of good ideas in there but you defeated your own purpose a bit through your use of technology which erects the barriers immediately, rather than drawing in the site visitor.

    • Alexander Zolotarev

      Thanks, Nick for your congrats! I am glad you like the idea and how it is implemented.

      Msbpodcast, you mean you like the Time Machine?

      The Time Machine is basically a useful and convenient, and visually attractive way to organize and store information, and it enables a user to travel in time and see what events happened some time ago.

      As for technology, I don’t condsider SochiReporter to be overloaded with tech components. Yes, it’s multifunctional. Probably, more tech-functional than Drupal sites usually are, but I think this is SochiReporter’s advantage rather than a drawback.

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